Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Days of Blogging Day 4 (Knowing Your Limits)

24 hours in a day.

168 hours in a week.

I don't know too many adults that actually get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night.  If I can manage 6 a night, that is usually enough to get me through the day.

That leaves 126 hours in a week to work, commute, cook, clean, eat, take care of other errands, spend time with family and friends, and of course, run.

In the fall, one of my coworkers left and I was effectively doing two jobs.  That put a large dent in the 126 hours.  I was also hoping to set a personal best and qualify for Boston in my fall marathon.  Training for a marathon is a time consuming exercise if you want to do well.  Somehow I made it all fit by setting a boundary for myself that I'd have to leave the office by 5:30 two days a week to make my Wednesday track workout and an 8-10 miler on Thursdays.  It wasn't always fun, and looking back on it, I'm not sure I could go through all that again.

I put in the time and training, and felt like I had the nutrition part of training and racing down at last.  The weather was looking good, but everything could have gone disastrously with the wrong race plan.  And there is one common wrong race plan in a marathon -- going out too fast.  This is where knowing my limits came into play.  In our sport, having a good idea of what the final outcome is going to be dictates much of the race strategy early on.  It is almost circular reasoning.

I ran a hard 5K two weeks before and managed an 18:16 off of one track workout a week and about 45-55 miles per week in total.  This is where the following website came in great use for me:  http://run-down.com/statistics/calc.php.  I've used other running calculators such as Macmillan, but I've always found those to overestimate my ability in longer races.  The rundown one almost always nails my race times from the mile up to the marathon.  Based on past experience, this was the one to use.  

An 18:16 came out to just under 3:01 for the marathon.  I knew going in, if I could manage a 3:01 to 3:03, I'd be pleased.  Breaking 3 was a stretch goal and would have been incredible, but based on my 5K I decided shooting for a sub-3 would be risky.  In effect, I knew my limit going into the race and planned to run my own race, not anyone else's.  As it turned out, the calculator was less than a minute off, and I ran almost the same pace for the first 13 as I did the last 13.

Looking good just before mile 26 at R2B,
trying to ignore the pain that ultimately kept me
sidelined the last 2 months

In running, we are limited by raw talent.  The longer the race, the less likely that talent alone can carry you.  Some guys barely train and can break 17 minutes in 5K road races.  I've never met anyone who broke 3 hours in a marathon without training.  I can also appreciate that talent means not just speed, but durability.  The ability to stay injury free is only somewhat in our control.  Stretching and training smart go a long way, but the act of racing itself is a gamble.  There was nothing I could have done to prevent my achilles injury 21 miles into my marathon short of not starting the race to begin with.

We are also limited by our own motivation and demands on our time.  It seems like today fewer people actually have jobs that stick to defined hours.  I am not a parent yet, but being 30 now, several of my friends are new parents, and I appreciate that is effectively a 24/7 job -- and an important one at that.

Going into this winter, knowing my limits will be important as I recover from injury and balance the demands of work and life.  I signed up for the Uwharrie 20, which is in barely a month, and the longest I've run since Ridge to Bridge was 7 miles (just today).  I hope I can finish without further injury, but I am not going to set any sort of time or place goal.  I'm learning to run for the experience and not worry about how well I do.  It is more important that I enjoy the experience and I hope to share it with others.  I hope to get in a 12 miler sometime over my break, and then ramp up to 14, 16, and 18 before race day, probably all on rugged single track.

I have a long bucket list of races I'd like to do (Shut In Ridge, JFK 50, Kiawah, Marine Corps Marathon, Boston itself of course, countless others).  I will never cross off every race, and even if I did, but did not enjoy the experience of training for or running them, would I have accomplished anything?  Crossing off items on a list for the sake of crossing them off seems pointless.

That being said, with Boston Qualifying out the way, my list of running accomplishments left to do is actually very short, and I hope to keep it that way.  Shooting for a low 2:50s marathon might be within my reach talent-wise with the right training just isn't worth the cost.  I hope I can stay healthy for more of 2013, but in the end, I'm thankful that my 'issues' are limited just to inhibiting my running and not other parts of my life.

Cheers.  And Happy Holidays!

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